The Decline & Fall of the US News Rankings


Have the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings become irrelevant? The ostensible purpose of the US News law school rankings is to give prospective law students convenient and reliable information about the relative quality of law schools and help them decide which law school to attend. Law schools care about the US News rankings because prospective law students care about the US News rankings. A ranking increase means more prestige and better credentialed students, while a ranking decrease means less prestige and students with worse credentials. Accordingly, law schools are jealous of their US News ranking.

Do prospective law students actually care about the US News rankings anymore? We compared changes in law school US News rankings to changes in prospective law student preferences the following year. Those variables should be strongly positively correlated. If a school’s US News ranking increases, prospective law students should prefer it more the following year, and if it decreases, they should prefer it less. But in fact, they were at best very weakly positively correlated, and often they are weakly negatively correlated. In other words, prospective law students appear to be largely indifferent to changes in a school’s US News ranking. This suggests that prospective law students are getting information about which law school to attend from someplace other than US News. And it also suggests that law schools can safely stop paying attention to the US News rankings, because their customers don’t care.